Eagles fans are a pretty opinionated bunch, but when it comes to announcers, no one quite ruffles their feathers like Cris Collinsworth, the analyst for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
Collinsworth will be calling Sunday's Super Bowl LII between the Eagles and the Patriots for NBC alongside long-time play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and sideline reporter Michele Tafoya. Collinsworth has called Eagles games three times this season — twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs — which means he's heard quite a few opinions about his broadcasting skills from Eagles fans.
"I'm sorry, I know the Eagles fans think they're unique," Collinsworth said ahead of Super Bowl LII, pointing out its his job to analyze and critique the players. "I think that I spent 98 percent of my time saying glowing nice things about people on the broadcast, and yet I know those other two percent sting."
In every city, from Philadelphia to Dallas to even Cincinnati, where he spent eight seasons as a wide receiver for the Bengals, fans assume he simply hates the hometown team, a reaction Collinsworth said he's come to better understand in his 28 years as a broadcaster.
A team like the Eagles has come so far and weathered such adversity that it almost becomes a member of the family, Collinsworth said, admitting it was tough sometimes to watch Notre Dame games featuring his son, Austin.
"I've heard him being critiqued on the air, and it's no fun," Collinsworth said.
It will be Collinsworth's fourth Super Bowl as a broadcaster (and his third alongside Michaels), and all four have featured the Patriots, so he's well acquainted with what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are capable of. In fact, the first Super Bowl Collinsworth worked in the booth was Super Bowl XXXIX, which also featured the Eagles taking on the Patriots.
"The Pats look the same, the Eagles very different," Collinsworth said, noting that the Eagles stingy defense should be able to slow down the Patriots' high-powered offense. "The pass rush of the Eagles will challenge Brady like the Jaguars did, and Nick Foles has a chance to complete one of the most incredible roller coaster rides in NFL history."
For Michaels, Sunday's game will be the 10th Super Bowl he's broadcast over his 40 years in the business. He's already on record as saying he'd travel to Philadelphia to watch the team's victory parade head down Broad Street. But that doesn't mean Michaels is pulling for the Eagles to win on Sunday.
"The only thing I'm rooting for this year is triple overtime and the longest game in the history of football," Michaels said.
Last month, the 73-year-old broadcaster tapped down rumors that he was considering retiring following the Super Bowl, telling the Associated Press, "If you think about retiring, you've already retired … I still get excited going to the games. I love walking into a stadium. I love sports."
If Michaels doesn't walk away, NBC will have to figure out a new role for former ESPN announcer Mike Tirico, whom the network hired in 2016 in part to do play-by-play during its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, which FOX just won the rights to air. Despite being busy handing the hosting duties for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Tirico offered a quick thought about the Eagles.
"I think the story [of the Eagles] has become appealing to a lot of folks because of the significant adversity they've had to overcome," Tirico said, pointing to the season-ending injury to quarterback Carson Wentz. "I've known Nick [Foles] since he came out of Arizona, and to see his success in the playoffs was really neat. We'll see if they can keep the whole underdog thing going."
Missing from Sunday's broadcast will be longtime broadcaster Bob Costas, who said it was a mutual decision for NBC to remove him from his normal pregame hosting duties after he was critical of the league's response to concussions and CTE. Costas told Sports Business Daily he's long had "ambivalent feelings about football." Costas will be replaced by Liam McHugh, who will co-host NBC's Super Bowl pre-game show alongside Dan Patrick.
"I don't believe any of us have any ambivalence towards airing the NFL. The game is an exciting, fast-paced, hard-hitting game. Clearly there are some health concerns that the league and the players have been discussion and are addressing," NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus said. "Everyone that plays the game goes in with their eyes wide open, and our job is to document it."